Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publications, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
The EU Referendum campaign continues – albeit with the Prime Minister still rigging things in his favour. He still feels free to opine on the issue, and yet bars any minister who takes a different view from speaking.
His ridiculously pathetic attempt to scare us into believing that the Calais Jungle would suddenly become the Folkestone Jungle was quite a sight to behold. Good for the French in immediately making it clear they wouldn’t seek to rip up the bilateral arrangement, which has absolutely bugger all to do with the EU. The mayor of Calais was no doubt doing her nut.
The latest scare story comes not from Cameron but from Hilary Benn, who has tried to make out that Vladimir Putin would be secretly rather pleased if we left the EU. You’ve got to laugh. As if Putin would give a toss either way.
There is a view that if the Prime Minister recommends we stay in (and let’s face it, he’s not going to do anything else) then that’s game, set and match for the Remain campaign. I take a different view. If you have the political establishment, big business, the BBC, the Church and the beautiful people all advocating one thing, don’t be surprised if the people do the exact opposite. We’ve become a suspicious bunch and far less deferential to those supposedly know better than us.
But there is still a leadership problem for Leave. Those speaking out in favour of leaving still resemble people attending the disastrous John Redwood leadership election campaign launch in 1995. Where are those who can articulate why we should leave without frothing at the mouth and their eyes resembling the aftermath of a Ketamin intake?
Well, there have been two significant developments recently. First, David Davis gave a lengthy ‘death by powerpoint’ lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies during which he carefully went through all the positive reasons for leaving, and scotching many of the scare stories. It was immediately interpreted as a bid to lead the Leave campaign. Whether it was or not (and I genuinely don’t know), it could do far worse.
Secondly, Sarah Wollaston, previously a self-confessed Euro-enthusiast, wrote a brilliant article on Wednesday’s Times articulating why she has decided that we now have to leave. She described Cameron’s EU deal as a “threadbare offering” and asks “What use are “emergency breaks” when the driver has no control or “red cards” that have no credible chance of being deployed?”
She concluded: “If they are to have any hope of persuading the undecideds, the leave campaigns must settle their differences and inspire. We need a clear blueprint for Britain working alongside the EU in a constructive new partnership. We would join as the world’s fifth largest economy, not isolated but confident, outward-looking and open for business.”
And this is the challenge for the Leave campaign. Unite, inform, inspire. Are they up for the challenge?
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When you’re in a campaign you need to want to win it. You need to look as if you want to win it. You need to have all guns blazing. Radiate optimism. Inspire your campaign workers.
At the moment, Zac Goldsmith is doing none of these. He looks as if he’d rather be anywhere else but doing what he’s doing. It appears that being in a bathtub with Mrs Brown would be preferable to sitting in a studio answering questions on his vision for London. Cameron needs to give Zac a lesson on how to appear being ‘pumped up’.
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The common consensus is that Sadiq Khan is having the better of the campaign so far. But all is not lost by any stretch. Assuming that Zac discovers his Mojo, he also has a powerful ally. Don’t laugh, but his name is George Galloway. Galloway knows he won’t win, but he can inflict some significant damage on Khan in some of the inner London Boroughs.
I am told that his supporters are encouraging voters just to use their first preference vote, and leave the rest of the ballot paper blank. Neither of the main two candidates is likely to win on the first ballot. If enough Galloway supporters don’t use their second or even third preferences for Sadiq, that could let Zac through the back door. Stranger things have happened.
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In March I am publishing David Laws’ book on the history of the coalition. It’s imaginatively titled ‘Coalition’. I finished reading the unedited manuscript recently. I know I’m the publisher and I am biased, but it certainly doesn’t disappoint. There is one politician who comes out of it very badly indeed and won’t be a happy bunny. Such a tease…
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If you’ve never listened to the Alex Salmond Phone-in (Wednesday at 4 on LBC), you’re missing a treat. This week Mr S couldn’t remember his salary as First Minister and was challenged to a fight on air by a certain William Wallace of Brentwood.
Och aye, we even bring back people from the dead on LBC. It’s no doubt part of the reason David Mellor and Ken Livingstone have a show! Just my little joke. I actually think their Saturday morning show is one of the best shows on the station. It ought not to work, but it really does. Tune in on Saturday mornings from 10 and judge for yourself. Class bantz.